When the COVID-19 pandemic surged in March and stay-at-home mandates were put into place across the country, everyone scrambled to pick up a new hobby to keep busy while isolated. While some began knitting, painting or hiking, the most trendy newly quarantined hobbyists decided to learn the art of baking sourdough bread. What was once a craft reserved for culinary-school graduates has become a popular pastime for hipsters and work-at-home parents alike. Feel free to enjoy your sourdough creations, but start off small and simple rather than going over-the-top.
The typical artisan bread-making classes can require up to a month of intensive teaching. But that “How to make sourdough” Youtube video is only 45 minutes long, so how hard can it really be? Just because you own a Dutch oven and buy sourdough starter on Facebook Marketplace does not mean you should challenge Boudin Bakery to a bake-off.
Take a look at a site like Reddit and you will see a plethora of everything from simple sourdough loaf attempts to spinoffs on the traditional recipe (think chocolate sourdough and infant age milestone-markers). Now, I’m not saying these spin-offs aren’t delicious or a blast to make —they probably are. I just ask that all you newly-christened sourdough bakers master the traditional, plain ol’ bread-flavored recipes before embarking on a tree-shaped, chocolate flavored sourdough journey.
Also, what is with the knife-shaped ears everyone is making? For those who have yet to hop on the sourdough train, an “ear” is the result of a slash you make down the middle of the loaf, resulting in the little extra-crunchy fold down the middle. All the new bakers seem to have decided to make the deepest possible slash, resulting in a pointy, unnecessary ear protruding out from their otherwise beautiful loaf. When I bite into a slice of fluffy, crunchy sourdough, I would prefer not to have the roof of my mouth sliced open by the Mount Everest of sourdough ears…. but that’s just me.
Honestly, I love sourdough and have no problem with everyone else loving it too. It’s an art, and it is also a fantastic hobby to try to master from the safety of your kitchen while socially distancing. Changing the hydration from 75% to 78% isn’t going to make or break your bread, and you can literally throw the loaf on a baking sheet and produce an equally delicious bread to that of the Dutch oven users. So, instead of listening to the new sourdough chemists tell you how to hydrate your bread to perfection or try to shape your first-ever loaf into the shape of the Mona Lisa, pull up a recipe online from a more renowned baker and perfect a plain loaf. Good luck on your sourdough baking endeavours.